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With all public worship suspended in our church buildings, churches across the Diocese of Blackburn are adapting to the situation created by the coronavirus outbreak using the latest technology available.

This has all been a huge shift in the normal pattern of church life of course. The Diocese has a Coronavirus Task Group chaired by Rt Rev. Philip North, Bishop of Burnley.

In a daily briefing to the Diocese before Sunday he acknowledged this shift saying: “Sunday will be very strange for us all. Usually on the Lord’s day it is our duty and our joy to come together to offer praise. Amidst the wonderful air of positivity that many church leaders are bringing to this situation, let’s make space to remember the abnormality of these times....”

Churches are adapting to the ‘new normal’ by using technology to reach people where they are and to worship. Some examples: 

  • At Lancashire’s Anglican Cathedral in Blackburn, Canon Missioner, Rev. Canon Rowena Pailing said: “We are live streaming Sunday morning at 9am and midweek Evensong at 5.15pm on the Cathedral's Facebook page, and the plan is then to upload to our YouTube channel in due course. We are currently planning our services for Holy Week, which will also be available online. All participants including musicians live on site within the Cathedral precincts; no one from outside is permitted to be present, to keep it as safe as possible.”
  • At Lancaster Priory, Rev. Chris Newlands, Vicar of Lancaster has also been offering services and morning prayer (9.30am) in his church on Facebook, with up to 1000 participants online – including international from as far away as the US and Canada.
  • At Freedom Church, on the Mereside Estate in Blackpool, Rev. Linda Tomkinson and her team are maintaining the cycle of daily worship and held a Sunday service yesterday on Facebook which was well received. They have delivered prayer sheets around their estate and are also running bible studies; coffee mornings (everyone drinking coffee in their own homes) and even choir practices online.
  • At Buckshaw Village Church in Chorley, Rev. James Gwyn Thomas and his team are using Facebook for video teaching and other engagement. They are releasing regular thought for the day videos and church house groups are continuing using Zoom, Skype or other similar technology.

Meanwhile, and with the help of St James’ Church in Clitheroe, yesterday ‘9am Live from the Diocese of Blackburn’ was broadcast online (recording here) and was led by Rt Rev. Dr Jill Duff, Bishop of Lancaster.

Safe distancing precautions were put in place, with no congregation in attendance and a small number of participants. Up to 180 devices were tuned in ... likely equalling many more people actually watching on each. More than 1000 views of the recording have taken place on St James and the Diocesan YouTube channels. 

Speaking before the service Bishop Jill said: “This Sunday my prayer is we might find joy together in our pain as we find new ways to meet with each other and with the crucified and risen Lord Jesus, asking him to stop the spread of the virus in our nation and protect all who live in fear.”

St James’ Vicar Rev. Mark Pickett added: “Jesus used a boat, Wesley used a box, today we are using the internet to proclaim the same message of hope, healing and help in these troubled times. It is just another way that we can still be the church even if we cannot gather in church.”

St James also livestreamed to broadcast its own services and Mark has also posted a video to their YouTube channel about how church life will adapt.



Ronnie Semley, March 2020